Overview of the Right to Repair Act


SB 800 (California Civil Code section 895 et seq.), also known as the Right to Repair Act, applies to certain construction defect claims involving new residences that were or are originally sold on or after January 1, 2003. Among other things, SB 800 sets forth (a) the performance standards for builders of such homes, (b) the rights of such homeowners, and (c) the pre-litigation procedures that a homeowner must follow prior to filing a construction defect lawsuit against the builder. In light of the broad scope of SB 800, this article will not address all of the SB 800 provisions. Below, however, is a summary of some of the key provisions that homeowners should keep in mind, especially if they believe they may have a claim against a builder.

Functionality Standards 

SB 800 defines 46 functionality standards to which a builder must comply. For instance, it sets forth minimum standards for roofs, foundations, plumbing, electrical, windows, and doors, among other things. SB 800 further provides that if a construction component fails to satisfy the corresponding functionality standard, it constitutes defective construction, regardless of the extent of resulting damage (if any).


A builder must provide a homeowner with a minimum one-year express written limited warranty covering the fit and finish of building components, such as cabinets, mirrors, flooring, interior and exterior walls, countertops, and paint finishes.

Maintenance Obligations 

Under SB 800, homeowners must “follow all reasonable maintenance obligations and schedules communicated in writing to the homeowner by the builder and product manufacturers, as well as commonly accepted maintenance practices.” A homeowner’s failure to do so may subject the homeowner to affirmative defenses, if the builder provided written notice of reasonable maintenance recommendations and schedules to the homeowner at the time of the sale of the home.

Pre-Litigation Procedures 

Prior to filing any lawsuit against a builder, a homeowner must exhaust SB 800’s pre-litigation procedures. The pre-litigation procedures include the following:

1. The homeowner must give written notice of the construction defect claim(s) to the builder.

2. The builder may then inspect the alleged defects (at least twice) in order to evaluate the homeowner’s claim(s).

3. The builder may attempt to resolve the claim by making a written offer to repair the violation. Any such offer must include (a) a detailed statement identifying the violation being repaired, explaining the nature, scope, and location of the repair, and setting a completion date for the repair, (b) the contact information of the contractors whom the builder intends to have perform the repair, and (c) an offer to mediate the dispute if the homeowner chooses. The mediation is limited to four hours.

Notably, if the homeowner files a lawsuit against the builder before completing the pre-litigation procedures, the builder may obtain a stay of that lawsuit.

Builders’ Affirmative Defenses 

Under SB 800, a builder has potential affirmative defenses, including (a) unforeseen acts of nature (e.g., earthquake, war, or terrorism) in excess of the design criteria expressed by the applicable building codes, regulations, and ordinances in effect at the time of the construction, (b) the homeowner’s unreasonable failure to prevent or minimize damage, (c) the homeowner’s failure to follow recommended or commonly accepted maintenance obligations, and (d) defects caused by alterations, ordinary wear and tear, misuse, abuse, or neglect.

Statutes of Limitations 

In lieu of the ten-year statute of limitations that applies to latent construction defects, SB 800 prescribes shorter limitations periods for certain types of construction defects, as measured from the close of escrow. For example, SB 800 provides a five-year limitations period for painting claims, four years for plumbing, sewer, and electrical systems, two years for landscaping systems, and one year for excessive noise transmission.

By knowing the provisions of this important act, homeowners can best be prepared if they find themselves in relevant situations.


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